Saturday, 6 February 2016

Stoneywell

Leicester is famous for many things: Gary Lineker. Gok Wan. Showaddywaddy. But its greatest claim to fame must surely be the discovery of Richard III beneath a car park in 2012. That must be the kind of thing that heritage professionals dream about. Although my favourite moment in the Channel 4 documentary was the heritage professional saying "I am doing this so I can PROVE that Richard III was NOT an evil hunch-bank" and then being told by a bone expert "he was definitely a hunch-back". 

Anyway. I was pleased to see Leicester having its moment in the heritage spotlight. The National Trust owns only three places in Leicestershire - Ulverscroft Nature Reserve, Staunton Harold church, and Stoneywell. The latter is the only one that does cake, so that's where we went today.


Stoneywell

A few factoids about Stoneywell:

  • It was built in 1898-9 as a summer home for Sydney and Jeannie Gimson
  • Sydney was a Leicester industrialist and owner of an engineering firm
  • Sydney asked his brother, the architect Ernest Gimson, to build the house
  • Ernest was a leading light in the second generation of the Arts and Crafts movement - he had met William Morris and shared his belief in traditional craftsmanship over industrial mass production
  • Detmar Blow was the head mason on the job
  • Ernest chose the spot so that the house 'emerges' from the ground - the design means that you can step from the main bedroom window right out onto the garden
  • It was furnished with pieces that could withstand the cold and damp - there was no central heating until 1969, two years after the place was connected to mains water- and the result is solid, practical items that are nonetheless very beautiful
  • The original thatch roof caught fire in 1939 and replaced by slate 
  • Basil, the son of Sydney and Jeannie, moved to the house full-time in 1947
  • His son Donald lived there until 2012 when the National Trust bought it
  • It was opened to the public in February 2015

An advance booking is essential at Stoneywell - you can't just turn up - and a mini-bus takes you from the car park to the actual house.

But what about the scones? The tea-room at Stoneywell is tiny - there are only three tables and it was standing room only while we were there. To be fair, nobody seemed to mind balancing their cup on a barrel, but it did make me wonder if they could have laid the room out a bit differently, maybe with shelving around the walls to make it easier to fit more people in?

Anyway. I'm always overjoyed to see home-made scones at smaller properties, and the Stoneywell scone was really tasty. They'd run out of cream - the woman running the place was really apologetic and said that they hadn't been expecting 90 people. I'm still a bit confused about that - surely Stoneywell knows exactly how many people are coming each day - but NEVER MIND! The scone was tasty, if a little bit dry.

Stoneywell scone

Stoneywell: 4 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Impressive automatic gate to let the mini-bus out: 5 out of 5

3 comments:

  1. That scone looks too small for my big gob!

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  2. It was a little bit on the small side, I have to say.

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  3. Thank you for the heads up on the Stoneywell scones, and the warning about the size of the tearoom. I am currently in route to the property so I'm expecting good things from their scones.

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